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Mazda CX-9

Fuel efficiency Ancap rating
$47,600–$75,165 8.4–9.0 L/100km 5

The Mazda CX-9 is a large family SUV that offers a compelling combination of space, handsome exterior styling, and a high-quality cabin.

It’s also surprisingly fun to drive and is powered by a gutsy 2.5-litre turbocharged petrol engine.

Latest Review

2022 Mazda CX 9 Sport SUV Grey 43

Mazda CX-9 Sport FWD 2023 review

The big new premium CX-90 has now been unveiled – but is the existing CX-9 still the seven-seat Mazda to buy?

1 Feb 2023

Mazda’s biggest SUV you can buy right now is a properly classy car inside and out.

You can even get a six-seater luxury version with a second row that’s basically a cut-and-paste of the first row and it’s awesome.

Further down the range, though, it’s all very sensible. At entry level – if you would be so bold as to call it that – is the CX-9 Sport with front-wheel drive. It’s under fifty grand, looks expensive and has a 2.5-litre turbo engine.

Yes, the cheapest one is front-wheel drive. That seems counterintuitive for such a big car. Let’s find out if I’m right.

UPDATE: Mazda CX-90 unveiled ahead of Australian debut

Mazda's big new premium CX-90 has now been unveiled, with an Australian debut expected to occur later this year. You can read about it at the link below.

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How much is it, and what do you get?

The CX-9 Sport opens the range for $47,250 before on-road costs, $1000 more than it was before October 2022.

If you want two more driven wheels, you’ll be blowing straight through the fifty grand mark and on to $51,250, so that’s two grand per driven wheel. They both have the same spec, though, which is thus:

Mazda’s MZD Connect infotainment in the CX-9 is, unfortunately, the old one.

While it does have the distinct advantage of being a touchscreen when stationary (but not on the move), this version of the software – and the older, smaller screen – is feeling heavily dated.

Obviously, plugging in your phone clears the factory software out of the way but it’s a small 7.0-inch screen and gets a little lost in the sheer volume of the cabin. It still works fine, of course, with a rotary dial controller on the dash for on-the-move use.

Conspicuous by their absence are front parking sensors, which would be mighty handy in a unit this big.

Mazda is – by industry standards at least – absurdly generous with its paint colour and prices.

Out of eight colours, only three are optional and while more than they used to be at $795, still represent reasonable value for Polymetal Grey, Soul Red Crystal and Machine Grey.

The CX-9 is possibly the only Mazda I don’t insist you buy in Soul Red; for some reason, it doesn’t work for me on this model whereas it still does on the barely smaller CX-8. Go figure.

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How do rivals compare on value?

A lot is happening in this segment, with seven-seat SUVs from all corners of the globe, assuming the world has somehow become square-shaped.

Which, given the last two years, would be entirely unsurprising.

Let’s kick off with the Koreans. The Hyundai Santa Fe starts at $46,050 before on-road costs with a 3.5-litre petrol V6 under the bonnet and an eight-speed automatic transmission. The two trade various features off against one another, but the Hyundai is cheaper and slightly better equipped than the CX-9.

But the Santa Fe is smaller and less spacious, while that V6 is not a cheap engine to fuel. Then again, Hyundai punches back with more sensible service intervals.

Similarly, the Kia Sorento S starts with the Santa Fe’s mechanical package and does push the envelope on price ($50,790 before on-road costs) while also throwing in a bit more active safety. Basically, it’s the same as the Santa Fe with a sharper suit, a bit more interior space and a longer warranty than either the Mazda or the Hyundai.

The cheapest Toyota Kluger starts at $47,650 before on-road costs and packs yet another large V6 (although a 2.4-litre turbo-petrol is about to arrive). Like the Mazda, this is a US-built car and it acquits itself well against the CX-9 with nothing of note to mention apart from the cheaper servicing and longer service intervals.

If you can get your hands on one, the Skoda Kodiaq Style kicks off at $53,990 before on-road costs, a turbo-petrol engine and all-wheel drive. Being a Skoda it’s pretty well equipped but does cost substantially more than the front-wheel drive CX-9 while being even smaller than the Santa Fe.

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Interior comfort, space and storage

The CX-9 is huge inside, so big it really straddles the large SUV and 'upper large SUV' line.

It’s big enough that we put it up against the Kluger and Hyundai’s huge Palisade in August 2021.

At over five metres long, it may not be easy to park, but it’s a great place to park your butt, six other butts and some stuff.

We’ll start right at the back and work our way forward. With all seats in use, you have 230 litres of cargo space (which roughly matches that of Mazda’s smallest car, the 2). Drop the third row and the space rises to 810 litres, which is bigger than any wagon I can remember. Mazda won’t say how big the space is with all seats folded flat, but it’s gonna be a lot.

The third row is not a barrel of laughs to sit in, but there are cup holders and a reasonable amount of space given where you have been banished. You also get USB-A ports for charging, which is awfully fancy for a third row. But there are no air vents back there, so perhaps you can use one of those USB-powered portable fans.

Entry is a little tricky but getting the hang of it won’t take long. These seats almost skirt into everyday-possible use, but not quite.

The middle row is very roomy for two and not bad for three as the transmission tunnel isn’t too high. The middle seat itself isn’t going to win any awards, but with two to choose from behind, you should be okay.

Up front, you have fairly squidgy seats. Actually, all the seats are a bit squidgy in this cloth-trimmed machine and really, Mazda can and should do better. They’re comfortable enough but for a person who is normally a fan of textile upholstery, I thought these looked weak and felt pretty ordinary.

Also in the front, you get two cup holders to go with the pairs in the other rows, a tray under the climate controls and a reasonably-sized under-elbow bin.

There’s a wonderful absence of buttons. Mazda has worked through the range and banished buttons that aren’t needed or moved them out of your eye line. It’s such a calm, cool and collected interior, just a tad dark.

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What is it like to drive?

The basics

Like its little sibling, the CX-5, the CX-9 is a great car to drive for what it is.

I think part of that probably comes from the excellent steering and a steering wheel I’m almost certain is the same as the MX-5’s.

It’s also got a cracking 2.5-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol engine with pretty good outputs of 170kW and 420Nm. It doesn’t need much encouragement to move this lightest CX-9 along.

Annoyingly, one of the reasons it’s the lightest is that it is front-wheel drive. Common across all front-wheel drive cars in this segment – and I’ve noticed this on every two-wheel drive CX-9 I’ve ever driven – the front wheels love to spin.

It’s not so bad in the dry, but when things are greasy there’s a lack of go but a bit of a show before the stability and traction systems put a stop to the nonsense and you’re away. It’s never dangerous, not a bit of it, just annoying. The all-wheel drive is vastly superior in this regard.

Once you get over that, this is as good as any CX-9 you can buy. In fact, I think it’s the best-riding one, with the lowest weight and 18-inch wheels sporting the highest profile tyres in the range.

It’s a nice car to be in, quiet, composed and comfortable for all passengers. Unless they’re six feet tall in the third row, naturally.

It has a nicely taut chassis, which makes you forget you’ve got a couple of streets worth of space behind you. Steering is positive and direct while being well-weighted and the transmission and engine work well for pootling and blasting and everything else in between.

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How is it on fuel?

The week I spent with the CX-9 was almost exclusively suburb-bound and that is reflected in the 11.5L/100km fuel figure.

Having said that, previous outings in the big bruiser with longer highway runs saw a combined average of 10.3L/100km for the all-wheel drive car, which is still some way off the 8.4L/100km claimed figure for the theoretically thriftier front-wheel drive machine.

You get a pretty big fuel tank, though, at 71 litres, and you’re only having to pay for standard unleaded or E10 to run it on, so that’s a nice bonus.

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How safe is it?

ANCAP tested the CX-9 in 2016 and it scored five stars, the maximum available.

Since the test, a number of features have been added or improved but the rules have tightened.

Without a centre-front airbag, that score probably wouldn’t be repeated, but as we always say, you just never know with ANCAP.

The kids are looked after with top-tether anchors in every rear seat as well as ISOFIX in the middle row’s outboard seats.

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Warranty and running costs

Mazda offers a five-year, unlimited-kilometre warranty with a matching roadside assist package.

Unlike a few of its key rivals, the service intervals in the Mazda are short in terms of distance, spaced at 12 months or 10,000km. The capped-price service program runs for the first five services and the cost alternates between $378 and $424 for a total of $1982, or just under $400 per year, which is not bad.

Every 40,000km or two years you’ll add to that $99 for brake fluid and a $111 cabin air filter every 40,000km. The pricing compares favourably with its rivals but if you do more than 10,000km per year, the advantage dwindles.

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The CX-9 is probably the most well-rounded large SUV in its class, at least this side of $80,000.

With a great drivetrain, massive interior space and a nice experience for all involved, you can’t really do much better than that.

It’s preferable to the V6-engined competition because it’s cheaper to run, looks great and goes out of its way to be nice to be in. Except for the seats, it could be the perfect CX-9.

So you’re not losing out dreadfully by going with the entry-level option, but if you can stretch to either an all-wheel drive or the Touring AWD, it’s worth the extra.

Of course, if you're happy to wait and prepared to spend more, the incoming new CX-90 – with its big inline-six engines – might be the way forward for you.

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UPDATE: Mazda CX-90 unveiled ahead of Australian debut

Mazda's big new premium CX-90 has now been unveiled, with an Australian debut expected to occur later this year. You can read about it at the link below.

2022 Mazda CX-9 Sport FWD specifications

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Score breakdown
Safety, value and features
Comfort and space
Engine and gearbox
Ride and handling

Things we like

  • Tons of room
  • Hugely practical
  • Stylish inside and out

Not so much

  • Squidgy front seats
  • Dark, innit?
  • Old MZD Connect
  • Wheelspin

More Reviews

Mazda CX-9 Prices and Specifications

VariantPriceFuel Economy (city)PowerTransmission
Sport$47,600–$50,2508.4–9 L/100km170 kW6 SP Automatic
Touring$55,200–$59,2008.4–9 L/100km170 kW6 SP Automatic
GT$63,350–$68,7008.4–9 L/100km170 kW6 SP Automatic
GT SP$65,200–$69,2008.4–9 L/100km170 kW6 SP Automatic
Azami$66,550–$70,5508.4–9 L/100km170 kW6 SP Automatic
Azami LE$75,1659 L/100km170 kW6 SP Automatic


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About the Mazda CX-9

The Mazda CX-9 is a large family SUV that offers a compelling combination of space, handsome exterior styling, and a high-quality cabin.

It’s also surprisingly fun to drive and is powered by a gutsy 2.5-litre turbocharged petrol engine.

Seven seats are standard, though buyers can order a six-seat configuration in higher-spec variants that fit two luxurious ‘captain chairs’ in the middle row. The model range includes front- or all-wheel-drive versions, with the latter offering a higher braked towing capacity.

Now five years old, the Mazda CX-9 is a Wheels Car of the Year winner and continues to hold its own against younger rivals. It’s one of our favourite big family SUVs and even measures up favourably against models from more expensive luxury brands.

Seven-seater rivals include the Hyundai Sante Fe, Kia Sorento, Skoda Kodiaq, Toyota Kluger, and Volkswagen Tiguan Allspace.